Iranian rescue teams battled severe weather Monday as they searched for a passenger plane that disappeared high in the Zagros mountains the previous day with 66 people on board.

Several helicopters that had deployed at dawn to hunt for Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 were forced to return to base, officials said.

“Unfortunately due to strong winds and fog reducing visibility, it was not possible for helicopters to continue their search,” a Red Crescent official told the ISNA news agency.

“Teams are searching by foot and so far they have not found anything.”

Officials said hundreds of mountaineers, dogs and drones were operating around the Dena mountain at altitudes as high as 4,500 metres (15,000 feet).

The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service for 25 years, left the capital’s Mehrabad airport at around 8:00 am (0430 GMT) Sunday and was heading towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south.

Several relatives of passengers have travelled to the Dena mountain area where the plane is thought to have come down, local media said.

A team of crash investigators from French air safety agency BEA was set to arrive in Iran later on Monday.

“Three investigators and our technical advisers will go to the site,” a BEA spokesman told AFP.

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